Blog Post #927 – Death of Worker in Trench Results in $75,000 Fine

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

Utility Force Inc. pleaded guilty and was given a fine of $75,000 in court after a worker died in a trench that collapsed.

On July 24, 2014, the company was engaged in the installation of water and sewer lines at a residential construction site on Venn Crescent, in the City of Toronto. A backhoe operator dug a trench from each of two residences, joining into a single trench in a “Y” configuration leading to the municipal water and sewer main lines. The depth of the excavation at one of the residences was about 10 or 11 feet.

The sides of the excavation were not sloped, and excavated material had been piled about three feet (one metre) from the edge of the trench. An 8-foot-deep by 10-foot-long shoring box was available, sitting on a flatbed trailer a short distance from the excavation.  The dimensions of that trench box were not sufficient to shore a 10-foot to 11-foot deep excavation.

One of the workers entered the unshored and unsloped trench to clear dirt away which had fallen onto the pipe, despite other workers’ urging to the contrary. At that point the supervisor was sitting in a truck completing paperwork, and did not see or instruct the worker about entering the trench.

The side of the excavation collapsed, burying the worker in the trench up to the chest. A worker, the supervisor and two responding police officers jumped into the trench in an attempt to free the trapped worker; however, the commander of the responding fire department ordered everyone out of the excavation. Moments later a second cave-in completely buried the worker and the worker died as a result of that trench collapse.

A Ministry of Labour investigation found that Utility Force had no documented training of its employees on that crew relating to the hazard of working in trenches or of the legal requirement for the use of shoring boxes if entering an unsloped trench.

The company was fined $75,000 by Judge Howard Borenstein in Toronto court on October 7, 2016.

My opinion

The law(s) in contravention:

Utility Force Inc. was found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario ‘Construction’ projects sector regulation 213/91, Section 234, subsection (1) which states,

“The walls of an excavation shall be supported by a support system that complies with sections 235, 236, 237, 238, 239 and 241.”

Utility Force Inc. was also found in contravention of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), section 25, subsection 1(c) which states,

“An employer shall ensure that,

(c) the measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace.”

The six sections that have to be met for any excavation wall is quite lengthy but needs to be read and complied with before any digging is to occur.

Please ensure that your company has read and understands the sections listed above. It IS the law but we need to have all employers become familiar of their own little piece of the green book before any work is to be done.

The supervisor, under section 27 of the OHSA, also has responsibilities and should be competent to organize the work.

“competent person” means a person who,

(a) is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance,

(b) is familiar with this Act and the regulations that apply to the work, and

(c) has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace.”

Ensure your workplace is a safe place.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’, ‘Construction Safety Awareness’, Trenching Safety Awareness’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal

CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.


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